Tag: Design

A Simple Event Flow for Educational Games

Quite Coyote also known as Focus Fox

Quiet Coyote Grabs Attention

There’s a lot going on whenever you bring a group of people together for a game. Some people will be nervous. Some people will be angry. Some people simply want to shoot the bull with their friends.

In order to have a successful group experience you need to get everyone on the same page quickly and as naturally as possible. With younger children you can use  a “Quiet Coyote” (see above) or “when the hand goes up, the mouth goes shut” approach to focus redirection.

My group likes to argue about the focus device – is it a Coyote? A Focus Fox? What about Silent Spiders? And off they go into the woods again. In this case, getting them up and moving them to another location is a good way to get everyone into the same head-space.

Here’s a simple event flow that brings people together around your activity:

Excitement Builders

Fast, fun hilarious stunts capture attention, get people laughing and loosened up. If you have energetic, enthusiastic song leaders then a couple of songs can bring people together socially and spiritually.

Centering Stage

This is a transitional move designed to focus attention on the main event. You can have people move to tables, fill out a questionare, make name tags. If your learning experienced is themed, this would be a good time to introduce theme music, dim the lights, don costumes or whatever is appropriate.

Essential Experience

Here is the main event where everything works to reinforce the emotional state of the experience. For instance, if your learning experience has to do with the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert, here is where you turn on the halogen lights and turn up the heat. Do your best to get everyone into the essential experience of the lesson.

Debriefing and Decompression

Essentially your group has just taken a hero’s journey. You’ve gotten the goods, now is the time to return to the real world. Spend the last 15-20 minutes of group time talking about the experience, the emotions and feelings that came up and practical applications in the real world.

The temptation for an educator is to feed the flock, stuff them full of information. But when everything goes well your group will be lit-up, and eager to do it again. Your job is to send them out into the world hungry for more.

Toward a Theology of Game Design


Design for Blueberry Garden on Gamestorm by Erik Svedäng

Sometimes you read a book that flips a light switch in your head. For me one such book was  A Theology of Children’s Ministry by Lawrence Richards. It changed the way I thought about teaching.

Richards looked at the way children learn best and concluded that heart-knowledge was more effective than head-knowledge. A lecture or a lesson plan can’t penetrate the heart the way friendship can. He believed that faith is best taught by modeling behavior in the moment.

It is in fact our emotional responses to situations that trigger our thoughts and shape our perceptions, rather than an analysis of a situation triggering our emotions. As long as our understanding of the Bible and its teachings is not linked to our emotions, it is unlikely that we will remember and apply appropriate Bible truths. (As cited in People in the Presence of God.)

Certainly this is the way Jesus taught. When he wanted his A-team to learn about trust he took them out in a small boat and into a big storm. And then he went to sleep.

If I had the energy, the patience and the grey matter to go to seminary I might attempt to scribble out a theology of game design. Youth workers can’t drag out a leaky boat every time they want to teach a lesson. But using a game youth leaders could capture the essential experience of fear that the disciples felt, and walk students through it.

There is a catch however. Experiences within a game are endogenous, which is a fancy way to say that what happens in the game, stays in the game.

The endogenous nature of gaming experiences is a good thing if you’re playing Grand Theft Auto. But it’s problematic if you’re trying to use a game as an experiential learning tool. For instance you could create a game where the recitation of Bible verses made it possible to overcome obstacles. Inside the game those verses would be valuable and powerful. Would they retain their power outside the game? Or would they become  just that much Monopoly money?

Important things to think about. And if you’re the thoughtful sort, by all means feel free to post a comment.